Saturday, 28 November 2009

Information Visualisation

I was reading an interesting article about developing ways to communicate ideas, information and data easily. Mainly by turning information into images, rather than just text. The above picture is an example used in the article, click on it to view it in all the awful detail. As the problem with that example is, once you have something to compare it to, once it becomes relate-able, it's just shocking.

Though using this technique to show the dangers for vaccines for example is a very good idea (below), as I've no idea whether 25ug of mercury is dangerous to me, yet in the context presented I know I consume more in food. That's a brilliant way to inform people of the comparative dangers, rather than just sending out a bible sized leaflet and feeding scepticism over government information.

Essentially the point being made is with so much information available and surrounding us, we need to develop ways to communicate it effectively. That I completely agree with, what's so wonderful about this digital age is the freedom of information, yet that is limited by how we communicate and utilise it.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Iraq Inquiry Starts Tomorrow

Sir John Chilcot kicks off the non judgemental inquiry from tomorrow, in order to identify lessons that can be learnt from Iraq. Of course we wouldn't want to pass judgement on anyone, as that would mean taking responsibility for actions and events.

There is one upside to this is with no position of power to protect him and Labour facing the losing the election next year, Blair has reason to feel a little nervous. The Tories could shift the goal posts, if public opinion strongly shifts against Blair and New Labour in light of what will be disclosed.

It's the hope I hold on to at least. As someone who strongly believes in the rule of law, the fundamental principle that the law is above everyone and it applies to everyone. There little more distasteful to me than seeing Bush and Blair prance about on the world stage while blood covers their hands. They made a mockery of parliament, they made a mockery of democracy. That's before you even consider the human cost and how on earth can that be measured.

Lest we forget.

Hung Parliament

On seeing the recent polling, my first reaction was to grab a paper bag and control my breathing.

Conservatives 37%(-6)
Labour 31%(+5)
Lib Dems 17%(-2)

This is hung parliament territory. That kind of shift in polling I've only seen once recently and that was towards 'others' after the expense drama broke. Labour have done nothing to gain the jump, so I agree with general consensus that it's a rogue poll.

Yet if Labour were party more to the left, if they didn't have Brown in charge, if they didn't have the history they do, I wouldn't be worried about a hung parliament. As it would be the best way to keep the concerns over the Tories cuts, welfare apathy etc in check. Labour however are too similar to make a good opposition party and they really do need to lose power in order to reinvent themselves.

Vatican Tries To Woo Back The Art World

There's an interesting article on the BBC, about Pope Benedict sending out five hundred invitations to leading figures in the arts around the world. He plans to open a new dialogue between the Catholic Church and the arts, his mentor Pope John Paul wrote:
"The Church needs art, but can it also be said that art needs the Church?"
It's a strange situation given art was largely funded by the church throughout it's early history, as wealth became less elitist art expanded with it. On being given that freedom like society, it starting to look closer and in a different light at religion. Art doesn't financially need the church now, it does need something to comment upon, religion presents a prefect subject to do so. Some of the best art work I've see has been crafted with devotion or distaste.

Which does present a dilemma for the church, what would the Sistine Chapel be without the beautifully painted surrounding? The Church needs icons, it needs devotion and sacrifice expressed, what a prefect medium art is for that. Yet while everything has changed around the church, very little has changed within it, there is something quite poetic to me that they're artwork should reflect the time they stood still.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Queens Propaganda Speech

So the Queen shall be doing a party political broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party tomorrow. A government using the Speech for advantage ahead of an election isn't new, it stinks of desperation though. Nick Clegg has called for the speech to be cancelled and replaced with emergency reforms to "clean up politics". He makes a very valid point that:
The one gift this failed Parliament can give its successor is a fresh start.
They should be using this time to restore trust, it would be the right thing to do. Yet never one to miss an opportunity they're be promising the electorate the moon and stars, while only able to deliver the little paper cut out ones with dog eared edges and mute colours, which they'll grasp in there clammy outstretched hands. What's the point? I like to think British scepticism will win out over such a cheap stunt.

Harman jumped in to defend the Speech, saying it would include measures to boost financial stability, curb "excessive risk taking" in the City, crack down on gang violence and give more help to families caring for elderly relatives. Just like every Labour manifesto for the last 12 years then? Only difference is rather than pushing for less bank regulation, they've done U-Turn now we're bust.

All of this is about grabbing every headline they can before the election starts and coverage will be split between the parties. It doesn't change the underlining point that this government, this parliament and this prime minster have lost the confidence of the public. There are no better words than Cromwell's when he said to parliament:
Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation.
Here, here.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Doctor Who - Waters Of Mars - Spoilers

On the wonderfully named Bowie Base One, Captain Adelaide and her crew are manning the first human outpost on Mars. The Doctor turns up and is immediately concerned, it's the exact day that according to history, the base is destroyed in a self detonated explosion. This is as the Doctor repeatedly says as he tries to back out the door, a so called fixed point in history. Before he has a chance however, it's discovered that two crew members have been infected by a mysterious alien life form, that turns them into zombies with really badly chapped lips. Yes there is life on Mars and it isn't pretty.

I enjoyed the episode more than I thought I would, yet the ChapStick zombie storyline felt only there to put the Doctor into a situation that raised the question of what happens if all the power he has over time and life, finally gets to him? Without Captain Adelaide it would have felt even more disconnected, yet thankfully she pulled the story together enough for me not to complain too much. I did find her however the most interesting and entertaining aspect to the story. Which as a secondary character shouldn't really be the case.

Part of the reason for that was the Doctor just didn't seem the Doctor we've known through out the series, this seems to be a recurring theme with Russell T, wrap up a story by making the characters implausible or have a Messianic complex. It doesn't create good drama, it just feels like a bit of a cop out. In doing so he's certainly making the series feel like it needs to regenerate.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Rise and Fall of New Labour

The Wardman Wire have posted a video of Liberal Vision’s take on the rise and fall of New Labour. I'm quite surprised by how I felt after watching it, I didn't expect to be so angry and disgusted. Looking over my posts it shouldn't really be a surprise to me. Yet I watched it with a growing sense of it just being so beyond the pale, it's scary that so few can have that amount of power and can do so much damage with it.

You can see it on YouTube here.

UK Child Migrants - Government To Say Sorry

I hadn't heard of this before today, hundreds of thousands of British children were deported to former colonies.
The child immigration scheme, mainly organised by the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Nazareth, was intended to bring "pure white stock" to former colonies, and ran from about 1850-1967.

The full details of the scheme are only now emerging. It has become clear that about 85% of the children were not orphans at all.

Their parents were told by the church and state authorities that they had been adopted by middle-class parents in Britain. The children were unceremoniously told that their parents were dead.
Essentially the migration was intended to stop the children being a burden on the British state while supplying the receiving countries with potential workers of 'white stock'. Worst still, some of the people they were entrusted to abused, neglected or used them as cheap labour. I lack the words to express just how awful that is. I'm usually very sceptical about government issued apologies, they seem so hollow and inadequate. Yet in this case drawing attention to these shameful events will hopefully aid in reuniting these families. It is shocking however that Brown won't be issuing the apology until the new year, as if it's something he has to work into his schedule.

So often the sentiment of "never again" is echoed yet nothing is ever learnt, I truly hope lessons are leant from this. Devaluing human life, taking advantage of those that don't have the ability to stand up for themselves and brushing aside those we should protect, is just disgusting.

Glasgow North East By Election - Result

I lost my bet again, I would usually be humble in defeat, yet given the coverage of what a great victory it was and two losses in a row for me, it's starting to feel like a Brown stealth tax. I think I'll push decorum aside.

It's not a vote of victory for Labour, if they couldn't win that seat they couldn't win anything. A turn out of 33%, the lowest turnout in Scottish by-election history, is voter apathy. Is it really victorious that Labour voters are sitting on their hands on mass rather than voting, that's a shinning endorsement of Brown's policies? What wouldn't be then?

When you take into account apathy it's not a good sign for South of the boarder and it's English seats that win elections, as they account for the largest proportion of them. If they can't mobilise their voters in Scotland, in effect their heartlands, that doesn't bode well for England.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Afghanistan Letter

Afghanistan is dominating the news right now, casting a long shadow over Downing St. For the second day running Browns "scrawled" letter is across the papers. I'm no fan of Brown, I like him about as much as I would like to get E.coli, yet the behaviour of the press in this instance has been shameful. Using the death of a serviceman and the grief of his family as a stick with which to beat Brown, is journalism at it's worst.

Attacking him and this government over spelling mistakes made by partly blind man feels desperate and so exploitive. It was a stupid mistake, miss managed, I don't believe that even Brown would set out to offend Mrs Janes with intent. With questions over the troops numbers, reasons for being there or equipment, are these not the things the press should be pushing for answers and holding the government to account for? Yet instead we hear for two days how bad the man handwriting is.

I strongly support freedom of the press, it's a big part of living in a democracy. Yet just because you can say anything, doesn't mean you always should. Morality as Oscar Wilde said, like art, means a drawing a line someplace.

This Is a Non Party Political Message

I feel I've neglected my blog and readers lately, with the combined effect of not a lot outraging me in the news, and politics in general being quite slow while work has been busy. I have in my spare time been working on a couple of personal projects. To make up for my neglect, I post one of them on here, in case any of you are interested in what I do outside of this blog.

This is an animated fake fickbook test I'm working on.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Drug Advisers Resign - As Good As It Gets?

Dr King and Marion Walker resigned today in protest over the sacking of Prof David Nutt. I'm glad they feel strongly enough about this to do so, as they're right to. Just as Alan Johnson says an advisor shouldn't step into the political field, the political field can't fly in the face of scientific research. When it gets to the point that the state is saying the earth is flat and science says it round, there is something really wrong there. Never has the phrase what is he smoking been more appropriate.

What's been nagging at me about this though, is the policy just isn't working, why keep moving things around when you could rethink the policy? Embracing the research offers the opportunity to do just that. It really annoys me as it just feels so stagnant, is this really as good as it gets? This is the best policy they have to offer to tackle drug smuggling and protect people? Moving drugs up and down the alphabet.

Wonderful, nothing like progressive policy and government. This situation highlights for me something so flawed. Rather than protecting other people, it's about protecting themselves. Suu Kyi said:
It's is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it.
Wise woman.